In this series of tips, we have discussed setting your own mindset and expectations, setting up a productive workspace, and general planning and instructional ideas for Distance Teaching. This post will offer suggestions for continuing to build a classroom community but from a distance.
We work so hard to build a community when we are in school and keeping that sense of connection is more important now than ever. It is also one important way that we can look out for our students’ mental health.
Here are 10 tips.
1 – Consider hosting virtual “playdates” or hangouts on Google Meet or Zoom. You might set an “agenda” for the playdate with a game or read aloud or something planned, but it’s also fine to just let kids talk to you and to each other. I have found that shorter, more frequent Google Meet hangouts are best. It’s also helpful to schedule these at different times of day (sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon) to accommodate family schedules.
2 – Use Google Forms to send regular “check-ins” to your students. Jennifer Findley, on her blog Teaching with Jennifer Findley, includes some awesome, editable daily check-in forms HERE.
It’s a good idea to start your check-in with the simple prompt, “Today I feel . . .” and allow kids to fill it in.
Another option is to provide multiple-choice options. After asking “how are you?”, give these choices: I’m great!, I’m meh, I’m not doing so great but I’ve talked to my family about it, I’m struggling and I need you to call me.
3 – If you need to send tasks for your students to do, consider sending them healthy habits reminders too.
Here are some ideas:
~sleep for 8 – 10 hours
~learn to cook/prepare a healthy meal or snack
~play outside, do some yoga, or have a dance party
4 – If you need to help support students with home Learning, consider a one-on-one Google Meet or Zoom meeting, making a phone call (or FaceTiming), providing video lessons, or providing a teacher-curated list of learning resources. HERE is my list of free resources.
5 – Continue sending a daily email with some fun information. Here are some ideas:
~send a quote (365 Days of Wonder by R. J. Palacio link or The Ultimate Book of Inspiring Quotes for Kids by Michael Stutman),
~include a joke from Jokes for Kids by Rob Stevens,
~share something from Everyday’s a Holiday calendar or 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer.
You can provide some routine and stability for students by emailing within a certain time frame every day, uploading a video within a certain time frame, sending check-in forms on certain days, etc.
6 – Find ways to say hello frequently. Remind kids that you are thinking of them, that you care about them, and that you miss them. A simple daily video would be one way to do this as would a phone call. You might even just send an email with a bitmoji of yourself saying something like “I miss you.”
7 – Using a tool like Padlet is a great way to have a simplified morning meeting. Post a prompt or question and send the Padlet link to students. They can reply on the Padlet wall and even add a photo if they want to.
Some possible prompts:
*share a great book you are reading
*share a picture of a pet or a favorite stuffed animal
*what is one “brag” and one “drag” about online learning?
*what is a “rose” and what is a “thorn” about your week or weekend?
~would you rather . . . ? questions for kids
8 – Suggest that students reach out to each other or to other loved ones by writing letters or making cards and sending them through the mail.
9 -Allow students to express themselves through writing. Encourage students to keep a journal, write stories or poems, or write a first-hand account of their experiences during this time.
10 – Don’t forget the families or caregivers! Consider emailing or calling once a week to check in on how they’re doing. You might even set up a Google Meet or a Zoom meeting for adults only!
As long as we keep the following quote from Dr. Brad Johnson in mind, we’ll be taking care of our students.
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